If you are traveling to Rome for the first time, this is for you. I’m proud enough to say that I know a thing or two about this beautiful city because well… I lived there for about 2 years. As a tourist, I know it’s important to know how to get around the city, museums to visit for free; the best way to save money on transport, how to be safe, and a list of other must knows for while traveling.
As a first time visitor to Rome, it’s good to have an idea of what to expect once you arrive there. Be ready to find a lot of people here – and I mean a lot! The city is never without people. You’re sure to find tourists walking even after midnight because it’s more calm and peaceful during that time. It’s also an indication that Rome is a pretty safe city.
As you probably know – which is why you’re visiting – Rome is a must-see destination for almost everybody. Whether it’s for the culture, delicious pasta and pizza or perhaps the unforgettable art, it’s always an amazing experience visiting the city. I know every time I would visit St. Peter (which is a must to explore) I’m always left in awe.
Let me go straight into what is important to know first;
At the airport in Rome
There are two main airports – Fiumicino and Ciampino. When you arrive at the airport, your best option will be to get a shuttle bus especially if your arrival time is close to midnight. That’s because trains usually stop running by midnight (and the Termini station does have a closing time). You’re then left with two options – taking a taxi or a shuttle.
I have found that using a shuttle is much cheaper for whenever my flight lands a little too late. The only downside is that you might have to wait for a while to get dropped off. Consider it almost like a service with a few other passengers en route to other destinations as well. Although it’s cheaper compared to a taxi (which costs up to 100 Euro) you might be the last to be dropped off depending on your address.
The last time I used the shuttle, I was the last one to be dropped off because most of the other passengers were heading to the city center’s hotel and or airbnb while I lived outside the city. That’s not very exciting especially when you’ve had a long flight.
The last thing you want is going round and round when you are exhausted or even jet lagged. But one thing that’s always a positive even with having to wait a little is paying almost half the price you would if you were to travel by taxi. I was able to pay about 45 Euro to get home, which is really impressive.
Since you’ve just landed and are probably exhausted, you might want to get the most convenient and comfortable form of transport. The great thing about Rome is that transportation isn’t a hassle to understand. But, if you’d like to take a taxi, here are a few tips;
- Taxi: I would advise that you avoid meter taxis because they are a bit more expensive unless you have a budget for it. When you book for a taxi in advance, it comes with a pre-charge of around 10 euros already.
The best way is to avoid booking in advance. Instead, call a taxi only when you are ready to go. Taxi drivers have a tendency of coming up with all kinds of tricks in order to make more money out of passengers (especially tourists with a full pocket).
This happens when the driver knows that you are a tourist and you have no idea how to get to your destination.
Whenever you need to call a taxi, you can use different transportation apps which I’ve found to be reliable and really helpful. Plus, you’d feel safer knowing you’re under a registered taxi company in a foreign city.
- Bus: Public transport in the city is quite good. This makes it easy to visit different tourist attractions without having to spend a lot of money on transport. Another added benefit is that you can hop or off depending on what you’d like to do next.
Tickets can be bought from any kiosk (Edicola in Italian) where they sell local magazines and newspapers. When purchasing the tickets, remember to get the map too. It will really be helpful to find places easily. One bus ticket costs 1.50 Euros. The same ticket can be used for both the bus and metro (train).
You are given 100 minutes to use it before it expires. Within the given time, you can jump from bus to train and vice versa which is really amazing.
Always have the bus ticket with you and pay. If you are caught without one, ATAC which is the public transport management company will give you a fine of 200 Euros. They are very strict when it comes to paying while on board.
- Train: If you want to visit places within Rome, there are three routes – metro A, B and C. Trains are usually safe but it’s always important to keep a look out for your belongings during peak hours (this includes pick-picketers for instance). I prefer using the train rather than the bus because it’s quicker and less of a hassle really.
Transport to other cities outside Rome
If you want to visit other cities like Milan, Venice, Florence and others… you can buy a train ticket at Termini station. Now, before you go ahead and purchase your ticket there – here is a bit more information about the station.
Termini has almost everything you need. You will find shops, restaurants and fast food places which are convenient for while on the go. You also will come across some shops in case you’d like to purchase a thing or two.
Inside Termini, you will find machines to buy your tickets (these machines are everywhere). Don’t worry, there’s an option for English while you attempt to buy a ticket – and you have the option of buying your ticket several hours in advance.
Rome travel essentials and things to know
Having painful toes is a nightmare, especially with the uneven roads everywhere in the city! The great thing about Rome is that there’s a lot to see – but it requires a lot of walking. That’s why having comfy shoes will not only help in keeping your feet calm, but you don’t have to see walking like a terrible thing to do. Pack shoes which has a stable heel. Usually, flat ones work better… heels are definitely for the brave women (unless you won’t do much walking).
Monday is a resting day
Some shops and museums are closed on Mondays. Locals take a time off after a long week of business. This doesn’t mean that the town is quiet. You can still take a lazy walk around town and enjoy doing nothing. Everything comes back to normal on Tuesday.
Eating times in Rome
If you are used to eating your dinner at 7pm, that’s unfortunately not a thing for Romans. Dinner is served quite late (about 8:30-9pm), and while you might want to eat that early, restaurants begin their dinner menu selection a little later than that. You might want to have a light snack while you wait.
Like you’ve guessed it, food is overly priced in the city centre because of the busy tourists and the opportunity to make bank. While a local might pay half of the price of pizza, a tourist probably will pay double for it. Plus, I must admit that not all restaurants keep the tasty and authentic Italian taste in all their food.
TIP! When it comes to eating good pizza or ice cream, just take the time to queue if you see a busy line. There’s always a reason why people would queue for that long – the food might be that good.
Eat real gelato (ice-cream)
While trying out gelato is a must while you’re in Rome, it’s always recommended to stick to popular ice-cream shops. That’s because not all gelateria’s (ice-cream shops) in Rome central will sell authentic Italian ice-cream. I definitely wouldn’t want you to miss out on the taste and flavor of your cone.
Leaving a tip
Tipping almost doesn’t exist in Rome. I know that in other countries, you leave a tip over and above the bill, but you really don’t have to while in the city. Your bill usually already covers a service fee which is technically almost like a tip. But, if you’re feeling kind, then you can leave a tip for exceptional service.
Free museum entrance
Like Monday is considered a resting day in Italy, every 1st day of the month is museum free day. Yay!
Here is a list of museums which are free every 1st Sunday of the month.
Take advantage of this and visit these historical places for free. When we went to visit the Colosseum for example, the ticket was 14 Euros which is such a save.
- The Vatican
- The Colosseum (the free ticket doesn’t include visiting the underground)
- Roman forum
- Museo nationale Romano
- Galleria Borghese (you will need to book your free ticket in advance) but you do pay a couple of Euros for the reservation.
- Baths of Caracalla
Book your tickets to museums online
Booking your ticket online will help you avoid long queues at the entrance. When you have your ticket booked, you’ll just go straight inside at the time indicated on your ticket. I love doing this because i don’t have to stand in the scorching heat during the summer months.
Enjoy free water in the streets of Rome
There are a ton of water fountains in Rome with pure water which comes in handy during summer time. All you have to do is carry a water bottle around with you for refills. You can actually buy a 500ml bottle of water and once it’s finished, refilling shouldn’t be so difficult.
I hope you have found this article helpful. Enjoy the beautiful city of Rome. It’s a place where you can hold hands and fall in love again. If you are alone, discover yourself even more. That’s the beauty of Rome.